Wednesday, August 31, 2005


"NEW YORK - Martha Stewart's electronic ankle bracelet comes off at '12:05 tonight,' he told The Associated Press on Wednesday, adding with a smile that the prospect of being rid of it fills her with "nervous excitement."

She's allowed to snip the rubber band on the anklet herself, freeing her from what she has called her "hideous" confinement at her 153-acre estate in Katonah, in Westchester County."

Yeah, there is truly nothing more hideous than being confined to your 153 acre estate for lyong about your shady stock deals. I don't know how she got through it - she's obviously an incredibly strong woman. She even made it through the extra 3 weeks that got tacked on to her sentence for violating the terms of this "hideous" house arrest when she attended a goddamned yoga class.

People like this make me sick.


Life can change pretty quickly.

For residents of the gulf coast, it went from a storm coming, to a big storm coming, to one of the worst disasters the US has ever seen, in a matter of days.

Try to imagine the impact, if you can. One day life is normal, the next day everything you have, from your personal items to your car to your entire neighborhood, is gone. Gone.

It will be months before there's even a shred of normalcy, and things will certainly never be the same.

When New York was attacked, our neighbors helped us out. Now it's our turn.

I urge everyone, regardless of their means, to make a donation. Even if it means not having those couple of beers tonight, or waiting another week to pay that bill.

People need our help. I don't think it's possible to understand the impact of this storm - these people are no longer evacuees, they're refugees. And things are getting worse, as the waters continue to rise.

Whatever you can do to help, do it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


I think it's a good time to reflect on some losses.

Big Cup, New York's "Best Gay Coffeehouse," is on the verge of closing. Like CBGB, it's a victim of rising rents; unlike CB's, Big Cup's employees are trying to take over the lease.

Big Cup is located in Chelsea, New York's "Best Gay Neighborhood," and serves some of the best gay coffee and gay baked goods around.

I first got to know Big Cup through my old friend Robbie, who was one of the first people I met when I moved to New York some 10 years ago. We both worked menial jobs at a talent agency, and it wasn't until several months after I met him that I realized he was gay. Apparently everyone else knew, but I was straight outta college (pun intended) and still more than a bit naive.

Anyhow, he became my Best Gay Friend, and he would bring in Rice Krispies Treats from Big Cup every once in a while. He was the one who told us it was the city's "Best Gay Coffeehouse," and he was right. I'd never had Gay Rice Krispies Treats that were nearly as good. It had something to do with the way the Gay Bakers got the mix of marshmallows, Rice Krispies, and butter just right, which we all know is vitally important.

Big Cup has become something of a cultural institution in the city, and place where gay coffee drinkers could hang out in an environment that was less about the meat markets that the gay singles bars represent. Now that it's in danger of disappearing, many patrons have come forward to talk about its comforting setting and great food, its wi-fi access and its patrons. I haven't had a Rice Krispies treat from Big Cup in 9 years or so, and seeing it mentioned in the paper brought me back to my first days in the city and reminded me of Robbie (who has since moved back to LA to pursue dreams far bigger and better than those offered in a talent agency).

So, big ups to Big Cup, and let's hope the employees save this Gay Landmark. We don't need another straight cell phone store or ambiguous Gap.

Friday, August 26, 2005


So my cell phone - a Samsung from Sprint PCS - survived its second plunge into a toilet bowl last night. The bowl was unused, thank God, and after only about 12 hours of drying it has turned on, given me its friendly little beep, and is now reminding me "Don't Panic," which my cellphones have always done.

Yes, it's gone into the drink twice, both times due to my insatiable desire to multitask - that is, to call home while taking a quick potty break at the studio. Both times the initial shock and disgust turned to joy after the phone was well washed out (cold water) and allowed to sit for a while.

Several years ago I spilled a beer into my Roland VS880 digital hard disk recorder, which wasn't a good thing. Off to a service center it went, and I was informed that beer is a far better thing to spill in a Roland VS880 than, say, fruit juice (which will get sticky and destroy the circuit boards pretty quickly) or soda (whose acid will eat right through the electronics). Since then I've stuck to beer around recording equipment, which has worked pretty well on many levels.

I can't really eliminate the toilet from my life, however, so I guess from now on it's "Potty time and talky time don't mix."

Thursday, August 25, 2005


SEOUL, South Korea (AP)- Keyboard and mouse in hand, he battled until nearly his last breath. The death of Lee, a 28-year-old man identified only by his last name who passed away earlier this month after nearly 50 straight hours of playing online computer games, has South Korea concerned about the health of the millions of gamers in the world's most wired country.

Two words - off switch.


Last night we dusted off the old machine and tried cranking it up.

Yes, Happy Boy (at 80% strength) got together to run through the songs, reacquaint ourselves, and quit the band. All three things went well.

It felt pretty much exactly like the old Happy Boy, maybe a little bit tighter (we've gotten better, as individuals, I think). The arrangements were mostly remembered and it felt pretty familiar. As an extra bonus, we used headphones to monitor the vocals, which gave the proceedings a slightly detached feel, but allowed me to hear whether I was in tune. A big help.

I haven't even begun to put my guitar pedals back together in any kind of usable form - last night was straight into the amp. At the height of Happy Boy, my effects were generally:

1. ProCo Rat, first in line, for boost as much as for distortion. Graham Coxon from Blur had two of these, which is why I originally bought it, but now I'd buy it 'cause I love it.
2. Boss DD3 digital delay, used for straight up echoes and whacked out noises on "Visible"
3. Boss TR2 tremolo, mostly for the intro to "Peace Chicken" and some other tremoly moments. Sadly, seems to be out of commission right now.
4. Electro-harmonix Small Stone phaser, used sporadically when things need to get a bit swirly
5. a tuner. The most important effect ever made, it makes me sound in tune.

I'll be adding a volume pedal for the upcoming performance(s), and probably playing through either a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe or Bandmaster, if you care about such things.

It was fun to play with a band again. It's been a long time, but it's like riding a bike, only a lot harder to put baseball cards in the spokes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


In the eternal quest to finish "Brain Shivers," I attempted to sing the vocal for "Diagonal" last night at Skyway Studio, with George Vitray engineering/producing and Ted lending emotional support. Of which I need a lot.

It's a hard song for me to sing, I just can't seem to get into whatever head space I'm supposed to be in to make George happy. I've tried it lots of different ways - on top of the beat, behind the beat, sneaking up on the beat from the side and trying to bludgeon it to death. I've been excited, depressed, desperate, angry, happy, bored... no dice. SM58, handheld, nope. Rode NTK, Telefunken's, Distressor, do it again. Our studio, his studio, wrong.

I was also faced with the clock ticking down, as I was obligated to meet my other half for some dog walking, and George just wanted one more take, one more take. Not a good way for me to work, not very relaxing, and I could hear it.

As an engineer or producer, it's always good to spend some time on the other side of the proverbial "glass" to be reminded of what a performer goes through, with time pressures, nervousness, and the inability to get whatever it is that someone else wants. I've sang this song lots of times live, we recorded another version of it a few years back, but this version has me stumped.

In the end, we got something that's better than what was there, but probably still not a keeper. I'm glad I'm not paying some engineer like myself to sit there and listen to me circle around this song like a 737 trying to land in a storm.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


One of the arguments for banning smoking (and marginalizing smokers) is that the general public is forced to pay for sicknesses caused by smoking, through increased insurance premiums, time lost from jobs, etc.

But the Web MD Medical News reported, over three years ago, that the obesity epidemic may be contributing more to America's rising health care and drug costs than smoking and alcohol abuse.

Researchers say being obese increases how much a person spends on medical services by 36% and on medications by 77% compared with what a normal-weight person would spend.

In comparison, even with all the known health risks of smoking and alcohol abuse, the researchers found only a 21% rise in health care costs and a 28% rise in medication costs with active smoking, and even more modest cost increases with alcohol abuse.

This indicates that obesity may be more harmful to your health than smoking or drinking, at least in terms of dollars spent. It is reasonable to assume that the same types of burdens placed on insurance holders by smoking apply to obesity, and that obesity costs more to the average insurance holder.

Obesity continues to rise in the US, a country happily built on the notion of excess. From our huge SUV's (half of the cars registed in the US are SUV's or light trucks - and gas prices continue to spike) to our big screen TV's, we're not a people who practice restraint.

Some researchers are calling on the government to step in when it comes to obesity, as they already have when it comes to smoking. Of course, it's not quite as easy to tell an obese person that they can't eat in your restaurant (imagine if a waiter were legally obligated to cut off a diner who's "had enough," like a bartender is) or to refuse employment to an obese person because they fail a fat test. I certainly don't expect the government to tell people to lose weight, any more than I expect them to tell me not to smoke in a bar owned by, and employing, smokers.

Wait a second...


Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition of America, suggested on the 700 Club that American operatives should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to stop his country from becoming "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism."

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said Monday.

It's not the first time Robertson has called for some X-Treme Christianity. In October 2003, he suggested that the State Department be blown up with a nuclear device (sadly, no one took the bait). He has also said that feminism encourages women to "kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians," which we already knew.

Just like the Muslims who give Muslims a bad name, Robertson is one of those Christians who give Christians a bad name. Of course, as the founder of the Christian Coalition, it's a pretty big bad name.

Monday, August 22, 2005


The music world has lost one of the innovators.

Bob Moog, the man who made the first affordable, mass produced synth (the Minimoog), died Sunday at the age of 71, from a brain tumor he was diagnosed with in April. He died at his home in Asheville, NC.

If you've listened to music in the last 40 years you've heard this man's influence. From the early Moog modular units all the way to their latest line of effects and synthesizers (like the Minimoog Voyager, an update of the classic), the name Moog has been synonymous with electronic music.

There was Moog on "Abbey Road," and there were Moogs on a LOT of records that followed. When the Minimoog made its appearance in the early 70's, regular working musicians could finally buy a reasonably priced synthesizer, one that could travel to gigs and didn't take up an entire room. The instrument sold like crazy, and the Minimoog bass sound provided the bottom end for countless records through the 70's and 80's. Moog's Taurus bass pedals are still used live (everyone from Rush to the Police to U2 have had a set or three of these things on stage), and the name "Moog" on any piece of music gear denotes an instant classic. There's nothing like a Moog, and there was no one like Bob Moog.

A byline for an article Bob wrote in Keyboard magazine back in 1987 summed it up nicely. They called him "the man you can blame all the noise on." He was the Leo Fender or Henry Ford of synthesizers, and will be missed.


For all of my readers who do not also read Savage Distortion (I'm sure there are actually none of you), here's a link to the latest Smoke and Mirrors Podcast, created and hosted by Ted "Jackson" Wilson.

This one is at 128kbps, which translates to "listenable." Still not the quality you get in the studio (where you can be treated to full range 24 bit audio on loud speakers through a big old analog board), but "listenable."


I like to think it's because of my post below, but "The 40 Year Old Virgin" was Number 1 at the box office this weekend.

Steve Carrell is officially a star. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


P. Diddy has changed his name yet again, reports E! Online News. From now on, please refer to him as simply "Diddy."

"I felt like the 'P' was getting between me and my fans and now we're closer," Diddy said. "During concerts, half the crowd is saying 'P. Diddy'--half the crowd is chanting 'Diddy'--now everybody can just chant 'Diddy.' "

Well, I'm glad we got that worked out.


Yup, his face is plastered everywhere.

I urge you all to go see "The 40 Year Old Virgin." Not because I think it's any good (I haven't seen it or read any reviews), but because I want you all to support Steve Carrell, a very funny and genuinely nice guy in a business known for its backstabbers and fakes.

I got to know Steve by traveling around this fine country with him during our tenures on "The Daily Show." He was really humble despite his incredible talent and was one of the few comedians I ever met who wasn't constantly "on." His early time at Second City (with Stephen Colbert, another genius) made him quick on his feet, and he learned the Daily Show game pretty quickly. (This was back in the days of the old Daily Show, where we didn't take ourselves or our interview subjects quite as seriously, and where we refused to script out field pieces in advance, instead letting the moments be "real." We also believed that even the craziest of people deserved to be made fun of along with the rest of the world, for which we were occasionally called "mean" or accused of "lobbing grenades into the bushes.")

My favorite story shot with Steve was in the deep deep depths of Minnesota (about 4 hours outside of Duluth, which shows you about how isolated it was). We traveled way the hell out there to meet a kindly old man who was raising money for the ultimate chicken museum (and getting very little help), and at one point he and Steve drove in lazy circles around the guy's driveway as his little white dog ran after the car. They talked about why Martha Stewart wouldn't let this particular gentleman caponize a chicken live on her show (for your reference, caponize means to "cut off his nards," as Steve helpfully pointed out).

Carrell has gone on to do a slew of IBM commercials ("Focus."), and played the weatherman in "Ron Burgundy" (maybe I'm biased, but I thought he was the best one in the movie). Now he's in the new "The Office," which is a tough role to play, and "The 40 Year Old Virgin" is due in theatres any day now.

Go check out the movie, if for no other reason than to support one of the good guys.


It's hard to feel bad for rich people falling off their horses.

Madonna, who has "reinvented herself as an English Country Wife" (quote courtesy AFP) after marrying film director Guy Ritchie, fell off her horse while riding around her 1200 acre farm outside of London, suffering some broken bones.

Sounds like the reinvention isn't quite complete. I guess it takes more than a 1200 acre farm and some photos in Vogue (feeding chickens wearing a "cream-coloured Grace Kelly-inspired chiffon dress and cashmere cardigan") to make one a cowgirl.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Russell Crowe, star of such films as "Master and Commander Blah Blah Blah" (or as Jackson likes to call it, "Fightin' Round the World!") and some others, is still on the hook for criminal assault charges following his little tantrum at the Mercer Hotel here in NYC - despite reports that he's offered to pay his victim 11 million dollars.

In case you forgot, Mr. Crowe was so angry that he could not get a line to Australia that he threw a phone at hotel clerk Nestor Estrada. Even if Estrada accepts the money and refuses to press charges, Crowe may still be prosecuted by the Manhattan DA's office, much like they pursued P. Diddy and Jay-Z for assault after their victims were paid off and refused to aid in the investigations.

This, to me, is great. What could be better than Crowe ponying up $11 million, then still getting hit with a felony conviction that keeps him from working in the US?

Guess what, Russell. You're an immature, spoiled little boy in a rich movie star's body. Why don't you come out to Brooklyn and throw a phone at me? I could really use the cash.

Monday, August 15, 2005


In the interest of having something to talk about, today I decided to talk about my brain.

My brain has been with me since the beginning, and for a long time it worked pretty well. I was able to remember a lot of stuff, and I did well in school. My body wasn't so great - I was in and out of the hospital a few times as a kid for some kind of auto-immune syndrome whose name I cannot remember - and I used to get sick a fair amount (still do).

Around the age of 16 a switch was thrown in my neurotransmitters, and something changed. It's funny, I can remember it happening very vividly, it only took a day or two, and I went from feeling really optimistic to really dark. At first it just seemed like a bad mood, but it didn't change back. I knew something was happening, but I had no idea what, nor did I really care. At that point things stopped having any real, deep meaning (except for music). I was in too bad a mood to think about why I was in such a bad mood. The days went on...

So I finished high school (exhausted and depressed) and did my four years of college, mostly in a deep dark funk. There would be flashes of the old me, but they faded pretty quickly. They might last the length of my walk home from class on a Friday, feeling like everything was OK, until I got to my dorm, then... gone.

I always blamed something on the outside. In high school, it was high school. In college, it was college. At my first job... well you get the picture. I also blamed family, friends, coworkers, girlfriends, complete strangers, everything. I was constantly trying to alter my environment, thinking that one more change would fix it. A promotion - nope. Becoming a TV producer on a big old successful TV show - nope. Finally making good money - nope.

I hit bottom during the winter of 2000. At my worst, I was lying on the floor on my old apartment, curled up in a ball, shaking and sobbing, ready to just drift off. I don't think I had the energy to kill myself.

Well, a friend got me into therapy, and my therapist got me to a psychiatrist. After a few sessions he diagnosed me as suffering from dysthymia, essentially a low level, continuous form of depression, as well as anxiety disorder. He prescribed Effexor (the brand name of Venlafaxine, made by Wyeth), a relatively new anti-depressant. I started it, and after the initial day or so of feeling totally stoned (and not in a good way) my brain adjusted and everything changed.

I felt like my old self (this is a pretty common description for depressed people who start medication). I felt like a huge weight had been taken from my shoulders. I honestly think my therapist, doctor, and Effexor saved my life.

This is all well and good, until you miss a dose...

Missing a dose of any anti-depressant is bad, but Effexor is particularly bad (there's a class action lawsuit pending). Missing just one dose can be almost debilitating. One of the side effects of a missed dose is a kind of electrical shock that flows through your head - also known as a "Brain Shiver." It's hard to describe, but it's very disorienting, as if your brain is a second behind the rest of you. If you move your head quickly you feel you eyes and brain sloshing along behind, trying to catch up.

I once went to Toronto for 3 days and forgot my medication. The wonderful people in Canadian public health would not accept an order from my US based doctor, so I would have had to go to a walk in clinic and wait approx. 6-8 hours to talk to a doctor. As I was working, it wasn't really an option. Somehow I got through it, although I slept very little and was pretty incoherent by the time I got home.

Last summer I tried to quit "cold turkey." Not recommended. The withdrawal continued to get worse (as it often does before it gets better). I was shaking, unable to sleep, unable to eat, and in the blackest, ugliest mood I have ever seen from myself or anyone else (truly a scary thought). It was then that I did a bunch of research on Effexor and first heard the term "Brain Shivers." Somehow I thought reading about others' experiences with getting off this drug would help, but it didn't. After 5 days I went back to my doctor. And here I am.

Anyhow, this is a lot of heavy shit, so I'll stop. But now you know what the name means!

Friday, August 12, 2005


If you're a skateboarding fan (listen up Tony!), a dog lover, or just a human being, you'll agree that this is the Greatest Piece of Video Ever.

If not, well screw you.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Let's see...

We think it'll take one more session to finish the House of Blondes (with Microdot bassist/singer Mike Ingenthron) track "The Excitement," which has been exciting. We recut all of the guitars and did some major surgery on the arrangement, and now there's just some tweaking and twisting, poking and prodding to do before puttin' a ribbon on it. This song features the first (intentional) recording of the hallway fan shutting down... see if you can catch it in the mix. Next weekend we'll being starting some new tracks with the band and we'll let you know how it goes.

We'll be remixing 2 songs from the latest Darvocets record prior to its release on vinyl (the CD version sold like hotcakes during their last tour). Mastering for vinyl will be done by George at Skyway. We also anxiously await our copies of the Brainwashed Youth vinyl (should get them tonight) - also recorded at Smoke and Mirrors and mastered by George.

The latest cover to start undergoing the S&M decontruction treatment is "Us and Them" from Dark Side of the Moon, a good old fashioned protest song. As Roger Waters says, the whole record hinges on the question, how do we deal with the fundamental question of Us and Them?

Friday, August 05, 2005


In related news, scientists in South Korea have cloned a dog.

What's next? Scientists in Italy cloning lasagna?

(Big ups to Jackson for helping write this one.)


There're some signs up in my neighborhood advertising the services of a catsitter.

Amongst their qualifications? They are vegetarian.

At first I wondered why you'd want your catsitter to be a vegetarian, but then I remembered how delicious cats are and it all made sense. I guess if you want your cat back, you might want to go with my neighborhood sitter.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Last night Jackson and I headed over to Trash (used to be Luxx a long time ago) in our 'hood to check out Figo, Paul Daly's (Acquiesce, Formula One, Happy Boy) latest musical project.

They were quite good, Paul did some singing and they even switched it up (guitarist Bob on the drums for a tune - he was a maniac). The AC in Trash was Trashed, so we sucked down cold PBR's (Jackson also went with a Margarita), promptly sweated them out, and had a few more. Open bar (PBR's and well drinks) from 9-10, nothing wrong with that.

So they put on a good show, very rock and roll, very heavy. I want to record them but we'd have to figure out a way to capture it entirely live, ie no headphones, live PA, bass and guitar amps cranked up. I've done this with some of the Clevo bands with mixed results, maybe we could do the session at a club.

Paul and I got to talking afterward about his experiences recording the Acquiesce record (and working in some high class studios). It was interesting, he was saying that the performer should be the most important thing in the room when you're recording, and I said the most important thing should be the performance. His point was the player should be totally comfortable, no distractions. Obviously he's right, making the performer comfortable is important, and it's the playing we end up hearing. It's amazing what different musicians want or need or hear or don't hear or can or cannot tolerate when they're doing a take. I think the more you record the easier it is to just drop into the "zone" when the tape is running, but you've got to be comfortable. That being said, if being uncomfortable gives a better performance then we'll poke you with sticks.

Anyhow, check out Figo when they come to your town and get ready for Happy Boy going the Full Monty at Tedstock.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Back in the old days, you made some sound near a microphone, the microphone converted it to electricty, you used this electricity to modify something (like the magnetic particles on a piece of tape), then you reversed the process, substituting a speaker for the mic and putting an amp in line. What you heard was (sort of) what you put it, minus any degradation from the system itself.

If you wanted your cymbals quieter, you didn't hit them as hard. If you wanted your voice to sound in tune, you sang in tune. It was kind of like taking a picture.... if you thought you looked too fat in that photo, you lost some weight and took it again.

To be a musician required knowing your instrument, being able to play a song all the way through, doing the chorus more than once (gasp!). Tuning was important (out of tune? Do it again, learn to tune, or take up a different hobby.) Someone screwed up? Do it again (or live with it).

A lot of great recordings were made. A lot of bands developed, learned how to play, busted their asses, listened to the sounds they were making, adjusted, and did it again, and again. These people were professionals, even if some of them never made any money.

Things changed, slowly. Cutting tape, multitrack, mixers with more channels, effects... all headed toward the big shakeup, digital recording. Suddenly, we weren't modifying magnetic particles on a piece of tape in a way analogous to the sound we were making, we were modifying magnetic particles to create a representation of the sound, something that could be copied, moved, deleted, auto-tuned...

The "musicians" started getting lazy. Why play the song all the way through if we can copy the chorus? Why get the sound right when we can modify it later? Why put everything into the moment when there's another moment just an "undo" away?

Yes, the engineers, producers, equipment manufacturers, share at least some of the blame. But when "artists" just want to get it done, but don't have the talent (or work ethic) to do it right, what should an engineer or producer do? Not use the technology because it's not pure? Tell the artist to tune for the 100th time? If they don't care, why should we?

Well, we want it to sound good. So inevitably we end up fixing shit that the musicians don't even hear, on our own time (read: no charge). We work hard trying to make two half moments sound like one whole moment. Listeners don't say "that bass is 50 cents flat, it's fucking up the whole thing." They say "hmmm, that doesn't sound like something I really want to hear. I don't know why, but I'd rather pay $15 for a Pink Floyd CD than anything for this." So we tweak and tweak, just trying to tidy up what should be right in the first place.

Then someone says "Can you turn that cymbal down," and I reach for another beer.

Monday, August 01, 2005


This is funny.